Week ending February 22, 2013
Fields, Tricia. Scratchgravel Road. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250021366. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250022783. MYS
Fresh from fighting a Mexican drug cartel (the Tony Hillerman Prize–winning The Territory), small-town Texas police chief Josie Gray finds herself facing myriad new adventures. After discovering the dead body of a Mexican immigrant in the desert, Josie seeks connections between him and several members of the local community including a former employee of the police department, the daughter of a police deputy, an unemployed college science professor, and the company cleaning up a local nuclear facility. Full of nonstop action, the plot not only involves Josie’s careful investigative work but also takes her across the border to save a young girl. Still, the heart of the story lies at the abandoned nuclear plant, which is threatened by floods. For Josie, it’s now a race against Mother Nature and a murderer.
Verdict Fields’s second crime novel will be a sure hit with mystery fans who miss the late Hillerman and readers who love contemporary Westerns. [See Prepub Alert, 10/8/12.]—Patricia Ann Owens, Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel
Gross, Gwendolen. When She Was Gone. Gallery: S. & S. Mar. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781451684742. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781451684766. F
Lovely, bright 17-year-old Linsey Hart vanishes a few weeks before she is to leave for college. The next seven days are spent in frantic efforts to find Linsey by retracing her movements and interactions with others. Linsey’s mother, Abigail, and stepfather, Frank, had been negotiating with Linsey’s father on how to share in seeing Linsey off to Cornell. The night before Linsey’s disappearance, the quirky piano teacher neighbor, Mr. Leonard, overheard Linsey breaking up with Timmy, her high school love. Reeva, ruler of the neighborhood clique, had been upset that Linsey failed to show up for her babysitting job but then appeared rather more concerned that Linsey might have seen her with her lover. Geo, an observant 11-year-old loner, had been doing what he always did, keeping to himself and making collages of the photographs he took of his neighbors.
Verdict Similar in title and theme to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Gross’s fifth novel (after The Orphan Sister) feels more genuine in that her characters are less contrived. Gross deftly depicts the dread-filled unfolding of a mother’s realization that her child is missing and clearly portrays how a crisis of this nature unearths alliances and fissures within a community.—Sheila M. Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC
Schwarz, Liesel. A Conspiracy of Alchemists. Del Rey: Ballantine. (Chronicles of Light & Shadow, Bk. 1). Mar. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780345545077. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780345541277. FANTASY
Elle wants nothing more to be a simple pilot, flying her small air freighter Water Lily and ignoring social mores. But there is nothing simple about the package her French contact Patrice wants her to carry to London. Within minutes of taking possession of the small box, Elle is attacked and robbed, saved only by the intervention of Patrice’s associate Marsh. Simple is going to become a very rare word in Elle’s vocabulary as she is pulled deeper into Marsh’s sphere. In a world of divided Light and Shadow, where Absinthe faeries flit through bars and Alchemists move through the shadows, a deadly plan has been set in motion. And Elle may just be the key to it all.
Verdict Breathing new life into a familiar genre, this series debut is a fantastic mix of steampunk and sleuthing. Schwarz has built a world that is rich with familiar fantasy denizens as well as some nightmares and magic that are purely her own. With Gail Carriger’s main series having ended, steampunk fans are actively seeking other authors/series, so this would be something to draw their attention. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]—April Steenburgh, George F. Johnson Memorial Lib., Endwell, NY
Winspear, Jacqueline. Leaving Everything Most Loved: A Maisie Dobbs Novel. Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780062049605. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062049629. MYS
Parting is such sweet sorrow. Winspear’s tenth Maisie Dobbs novel (after Elegy for Eddie) finds the intrepid sleuth at a crossroads. She feels a strong urge to travel abroad, but human ties have kept her stationary. Her employees are financially dependent on her, and her love, James, is anxious to know if she will become his wife. In the midst of all these decisions, Maisie is approached by a grieving brother of a murdered Indian woman named Usha. She was murdered months ago, and Scotland Yard has failed to produce any leads. Maisie takes on this sorrowful case of a woman who came to England with altruistic goals and a good position only to fall into near-indentured servitude. How did this happen? Who would want Usha dead? Just because you leave something behind doesn’t mean it won’t follow you.
Verdict Winspear adroitly weaves a mystery involving tensions with race, class, and even love. The novel will leave readers wondering if they have said a last good-bye to a dear friend. Highly recommended for fans of strong women detectives such as Bess Crawford and Mary Russell.—Susan Moritz, Silver Spring, MD